Buying a rental car? Here's everything you need to know - Autoblog (2024)

Benefits and drawbacks to consider before you purchase a rental car

Shopping for a used car can be a great way to save money on your next purchase, but looking outside the normal channels gives you a much deeper pool of vehicles to choose from. While some people balk at the idea of buying a rental car, signing the dotted line on a former rental can save you money and hassle. But there are some things to remember during the process. Lately, large rental car agencies like Hertz have made major headlines as they thin out their fleet of electric cars, mostly Tesla Model 3 and Model Y EVs but also others from Chevrolet and sometimes Polestar. But should you buy one? Let’s take a closer look.

Buying a rental car

All the major players, including Avis, Enterprise, and Hertz, offer car-buying services with vehicles they no longer field at rental offices. Their websites look like any other car inventory search tool, where you can filter by the make, model, year, price, and more. Many offer the ability to start the buying process online, and there are often discounts off the Kelley Blue Book values. While there are plenty of rental-spec Nissan Altimas and black Chevy Suburbans for sale, there are also a surprising number of luxury vehicles and sporty models.

What are the benefits of buying a rental car?

Since they are not traditional car dealerships, rental companies take the no-haggle approach, so the price you see online is the price you’ll pay when purchasing a rental car. Mileage and condition play a role in the prices, but they are generally not out of line with the rest of used car retailers like CarMax. Some rental companies offer shipping to a store near you, and others have home delivery options.

Rental agencies are known to keep up with scheduled maintenance, which is a good thing. Most rental agencies keep a newish fleet, and that means the cars they sell are still fairly new, too. That's important to many shoppers, as cars have gotten much safer in recent years and are packed with more and more technology than ever before. Some renters, however, may think of a rental car as a disposable object that doesn't require as much care as something they personally own. So it's important to take a close look at the specific vehicle you're thinking of buying to make sure it's not too worn out for your liking.

Why are some rental cars less expensive than other used models?

Rental companies buy vehicles in large numbers, giving them better pricing from the manufacturer. In turn, that allows them to sell the cars at more reasonable prices. While they’re not always the cheapest options, prices for former rental cars are generally set at or slightly below market values. The flip side of that is that many used car buyers are wary of rental cars because of the perception that they’re all abused and gross inside, which can impact your resale values if you decide to sell later on.

What should I look out for when buying a used rental car?

You should take the same precautions when buying a used rental car as you would with any other used vehicle. Unless you’re purchasing the vehicle remotely and having it shipped, rental companies will allow you to make an appointment to view it before the purchase. Some note that the cars are still active rentals, so you can’t walk in without having the vehicle pulled from the fleet and prepared first. If possible, take the car for a pre-purchase inspection at a reputable third-party shop or dealer. Some companies, including Avis, explicitly state that they allow buyers to take vehicles for an inspection, but it’s worth asking if the company you’re buying from doesn’t.

Though all of the major companies selling former rentals have in-house inspection programs, it’s still a good idea to check the tires for wear and dates and test-drive the car to make sure there are no surprising sounds or vibrations. The good news is that rentals are meticulously maintained, and the companies follow manufacturers’ recommended service intervals. You’ll also likely see thorough documentation of the maintenance that has been performed, and the Carfax report will show any known collisions or damage.

Do former rental cars come with warranties?

Some rental companies offer a warranty period with their used vehicles. Hertz, Avis, and Enterprise cover purchases for 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. Buyers can also add coverage from a third-party provider, and most rental fleets offer a trial period of three to seven days to let the buyer get a feel for how the car performs in real-world situations. Like any used car dealer, most also sell add-on protection with coverage for tires and wheels, glass, theft, and more.

Why do I see so many rental EVs for sale?

Some rental companies over-purchased EVs, only to realize that they cost more to fix per crash and weren’t as popular as expected. Hertz currently has more than 1,100 Teslas listed on its site, and its prices are astonishingly low due to a massive purchase that saw it need to sell tens of thousands of vehicles. Buying a used rental Tesla or any other electric vehicle from one of the major companies isn’t different than the process for gas vehicles, but you should be extra careful to review for collisions and damage.

Buying a rental car? Here's everything you need to know - Autoblog (2024)

FAQs

Why is renting a car better than buying a car? ›

No wear-and-tear maintenance costs: You won't have to pay for things like new brakes or tires on your long-term car rental. Lower insurance premiums: A lender may require coverages and limits for car insurance beyond what your state laws may require.

How does a car rental company work? ›

Car rental companies operate by purchasing or leasing a number of fleet vehicles and renting them to their customers for a fee.

What is the meaning of rent a car? ›

a car that can be hired for a short period of time. Collins English Dictionary.

What is the purpose of a car rental system? ›

A Rental System lets business owners manage their fleet, check on their cars, and find any available vehicles for use. The system helps you track vehicles' regular maintenance schedules.

Why are rental cars sold so cheap? ›

Traditionally, rental companies update their fleets every year or two because they get big fleet discounts on new cars and have tax and other incentives to sell. In fact, many automakers will buy back rentals at a fixed price within certain time and mileage restraints and sell them as "program cars" on dealer lots.

Why are rental cars so expensive lately? ›

When travel restrictions started to ease in 2021, rental car companies found themselves in a pickle. They had to deal with an increase in consumer demand that they couldn't meet due to their now significantly smaller fleets. And even as demand surged, rental car companies couldn't restock their inventory fast enough.

Is owning a rental car business profitable? ›

High Revenue Potential

Car rental services can generate impressive revenues. The volume of rentals, pricing strategies, and the ability to sell additional services all contribute to potential revenue.

What is the best company to rent a car from? ›

Summary of Money's Best Car Rental Companies
  • Enterprise - Best for Customer Service.
  • Zipcar - Best for Hourly Car Rentals.
  • Alamo - Best for One-Way Car Rentals.
  • Fox - Best for Flash Sales.
  • Dollar Car Rental - Best for Low Prices.
  • Kyte - Best Car Rental Delivery.
  • ACE Rent A Car - Best Loyalty Program.
Mar 26, 2024

How old are rental cars usually? ›

If you are asking about the main-stream rental companies, rarely more that 1–2 years old. Once the get to that point, they are generally moved to their sales lots or auctioned off. There are cut rate companies that may let them go a up to 3–4 years, but not many. I typically get one that is 1 year old or newer.

What's the difference between leasing and renting a car? ›

The key differences between a car lease and a car rental are length of contracts, where you get the car, and how you're covered by auto insurance. A lease typically lasts for two to four years, while rentals can last anywhere from a day to several months.

What does it mean to lease or rent car? ›

Leasing a car generally involves a longer-term commitment, usually for a year or more, while renting a car is a more short-term option that can range from a few days to a few weeks and even months.

What is another word for car rent? ›

Car-rental Synonyms

hire car. rent-a-car. self-drive. u-drive.

Are rental cars monitored? ›

Why do car rental companies use trackers? Car rental companies use trackers for several reasons including: Vehicle Tracking: Trackers allow the company to monitor the location of the rented vehicles and ensure they are being used within the agreed-upon terms and conditions.

Why do rental cars have cameras? ›

Rental Company Policies on Car Cameras

They reassure them that the cameras, such as the dashcams and GPS tracking cameras, are mainly used for security and safety. Likewise, Hertz creates a disclosure policy to alert customers about the presence of cameras in rental cars before they start their trips.

What is the core benefit of a rental car? ›

Renting a car offers numerous advantages over buying, including cost savings, flexibility, a variety of choices, and freedom from maintenance and depreciation concerns.

Why is it better to lease a car than buy? ›

On the one hand, buying involves higher monthly costs, but you own an asset—your vehicle—in the end. On the other hand, a lease has lower monthly payments and lets you drive a vehicle that may be more expensive than you could afford to buy, but you get into a cycle in which you never stop paying for the vehicle.

Is it better to rent a car or finance? ›

Any money you pay to rent a car works similarly to the funds you allocate for rent. Rather than investing in a car or a home, you're paying someone else for using their asset. If you want to build equity in a car, financing or purchasing it outright is often the best route.

What are the cons of buying a car? ›

Disadvantages of Buying New
  • The price of a new car is typically much more expensive than if you bought the vehicle used.
  • Be prepared to pay much more in sales tax.
  • New vehicles are said to lose up to 20 percent of their value as soon as you drive off the lot.

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